Moody’s downgrades Lebanon, cites default risk

A worker walks past food items displayed for sale inside a supermarket in Beirut, Lebanon November 5, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 05 November 2019

Moody’s downgrades Lebanon, cites default risk

  • Lebanon’s issuer rating, which was lowered from Caa1, remained under review for downgrade
  • The price of Lebanon’s dollar eurobonds fell by more than 2 cents in the dollar

BEIRUT: Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday downgraded Lebanon’s rating to Caa2, citing the increased likelihood of a debt rescheduling it would classify as a default, following protests that toppled the government and shook investor confidence.
Lebanon’s issuer rating, which was lowered from Caa1, remained under review for downgrade, Moody’s said. Moody’s classifies Caa ratings as very high credit risk.
“In the absence of rapid and significant policy change, a rapidly deteriorating balance of payments and deposit outflows will bring GDP growth to or below zero, further stoking social discontent, undermining debt sustainability and increasingly threatening the viability of the peg,” the ratings agency said.
Several weeks of protests have led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, stalling the chances of reforms to the 2020 budget and further draining Lebanon’s already depleted foreign exchange reserves.
In a sign of Lebanon’s increasing financial stress, the cost of insuring its debt has touched record levels in recent weeks and eurobond yields have risen to distressed levels. On Tuesday, the price of Lebanon’s dollar eurobonds fell by more than 2 cents in the dollar, according to Tradeweb data.
Moody’s said it expected the central bank’s usable foreign exchange buffer of about $5-10 billion will “likely be consumed” by the government’s forthcoming external debt service payments estimated at $6.5 billion this year and next, including a $1.5 billion maturity on Nov. 28.
The rating and review for further downgrade “reflect the increasing likelihood of a debt rescheduling or other credit negative liability management exercise that could result in private sector holders of government liabilities suffering significant losses,” Moody’s said.
That would constitute a default under Moody’s definition, it added.
Lebanon has never defaulted on its external debt, despite frequent bouts of political and security instability.
The central bank’s holdings of government securities implied Lebanon had options for debt management in the near-term that would limit losses for the private sector in the event of a default, Moody’s said.
Options such as debt maturity extension or debt cancelation involving the central bank’s debt holdings amounting to 50% of GDP could help as long as the currency’s peg to the US dollar remained, the agency said.
“However, those options are diminishing the longer Lebanon’s economic and political crisis persists,” it added.


Oil giants’ production cuts come to 1m bpd as they post massive write-downs

Updated 10 August 2020

Oil giants’ production cuts come to 1m bpd as they post massive write-downs

  • Crude output worldwide dropped sharply after the market crashed in April

LONDON: The world’s five largest oil companies collectively cut the value of their assets by nearly $50 billion in the second quarter, and slashed production rates as the coronavirus pandemic caused a drastic fall in fuel prices and demand.

The dramatic reductions in asset valuations and decline in output show the depth of the pain in the second quarter. Fuel demand at one point was down by more than 30 percent worldwide.

Several executives said they took massive write-downs because they expect demand to remain impaired for several more quarters as people travel less and use less fuel due to the ongoing global pandemic.

Of those five companies, only Exxon Mobil did not book sizeable impairments. But an ongoing reevaluation of its plans could lead to a “significant portion” of its assets being impaired, it reported, and signal the elimination of 20 percent or 4.4 billion barrels of its oil and gas reserves.

By contrast, BP took a $17 billion hit. It said it plans to recenter its spending in coming years around renewables and less on oil and natural gas.

Weak demand means oil producers must revisit business plans, said Lee Maginniss, managing director at consultants Alarez & Marsal. He said the goal should be to pump only what generates cash in excess of overhead costs.

“It’s low-cost production mode through the end of 2021 for sure, and to 2022 to the extent there are new development plans being contemplated,” Maginniss said.

London-based BP has previously said it plans to cut its overall output by roughly 1 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOEPD) by the end of 2030 from its current 3.6 million BOEPD.

Of the five, Exxon is the largest producer, with daily output of 3.64 million BOEPD, but its production dropped 408,000 BOEPD between the first and second quarters. The five majors, which include Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell and Total SA, also cut capital expenditures by a combined $25 billion between the quarters.

Crude output worldwide dropped sharply after the market crashed in April. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut output by nearly 10 million barrels a day to balance out supply and demand in the market.